The High Court in Belfast recently ordered Facebook to identify anonymous account holders responsible for posting abusive messages about a Belfast company and its employees. The judge ordered Facebook to provide the email addresses of those responsible and to supply more information about them to the court. Whilst there are strict controls over the disclosure of personal data under UK data protection laws s.35 of the Data Protection Act states that organisations are not held by these restrictions "where the disclosure is required by or under any enactment, by any rule of law or by the order of a court". Furthermore, an exemption from the general rule covering non-disclosure of personal data also exists "where the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of, or in connection with, any legal proceedings (including prospective legal proceedings), or for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, or is otherwise necessary for the purposes of establishing, exercising or defending legal rights". This story highlights the necessity for both staff and students to be aware of the risks of inappropriate use of social networking sites. It also highlights the necessity for colleges and universities to have robust policies in place which they can rely on in a disciplinary situation.
More details on this news story can be found on the BBC website.